Hura crepitans, the sandbox tree, also known as possumwood and jabillo, is an evergreen tree of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), native to tropical regions of North and South America, including the Amazon rainforest. It has become an invasive in parts of Tanzania. It is recognized by the many dark, pointed spines and smooth brown bark. These spines have caused it to be called monkey no-climb.
Sandbox trees can grow to 60 metres (200 ft), and the large ovate leaves grow to 2 feet (0.61 m) wide. They are monoecious. The red flowers have no petals. Male flowers grow on long spikes; female flowers are solitary in axils. The fruit is a large capsule with explosive dehiscence; seeds can be launched at 70 metres per second (160 mph). One source states that ripe capsules catapult their seeds as far as 100 metres (330 ft). (Compare about 845 mph for a .357 Magnum revolver bullet.) Another source states that seeds are thrown as far as 45 metres (148 ft) from a tree, with a mode of about 30 metres (98 ft). It has also been known as the dynamite tree, so named for the explosive sound of the ripe fruit as it splits into segments.
This tree prefers wet soil, and partial shade or partial sun to full sun. It is often cultivated for shade.
Fishermen have been said to use the milky, caustic sap from this tree to poison fish. The Caribs made arrow poison from its sap. The wood is used for furniture under the name "hura". Before more modern forms of pens were invented, the trees' unripe seed capsules were sawn in half to make decorative pen sandboxes (also called pounce pots), hence the name 'sandbox tree'.
Large sandbox tree in Honolulu
Hura crepitans in Vietnam
Hura crepitans in Saint John, U.S. Virgin Islands
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species".
- "Hura crepitans". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- "Factsheet – Hura crepitans (Sandbox Tree)".
- Swain, M. D.; Tom Beer (1977). "Explosive Seed Dispersal in Hura crepitans L. (Euphorbiaceae)". New Phytologist. 78 (3): 695–708. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.1977.tb02174.x. JSTOR 2434538.
- Vogel, Steven (March 2008). "The Flight of the Seed of Hura crepitans" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-08.
- Feldkamp, Susan (2006). Modern Biology. United States: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. p. 618.
- Smithsonian Institution.; Institution, Smithsonian (19 February 2019). "Bulletin /". biodiversitylibrary.org. G.P.O. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- Jones, David E (2007). Poison Arrows: North American Indian Hunting and Warfare. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-71428-1.
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